Bourbon Brownie Birthday Cake

Hubby’s request was for a dark chocolate cake.

I had visions of a grand 2 or 3 layer cake, surrounded by bars of chocolate and sprinkled with chocolate shavings.  The vision would not become a reality.  An accidental fall (not too serious, but serious enough that my ankle and elbow are stiff) prevented me from baking and frosting an elaborate cake.  So what to do?  Hubby cannot miss out on his birthday wish??!!!!!!

Enter these deep, dark, bitter chocolate brownies laced with bourbon!  Instead of baking the brownies in an 8-in square pan, I baked them in a 7-in round, which gave them a bit of height.  The brownie could not be plain ‘ole brownies so in went a quarter cup of bourbon.

(This particular bourbon is sentimental to me – it was one of the few bottles I took from my late father’s liquor cabinet before it went up in smoke)

The ganache used to garnish the cake was also laced with bourbon, but only about half a tablespoon.

Hubby loved it!

It was especially divine with a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream.

 

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Date Walnut Bars

a.k.a. Food for the Gods… at least in our part of the world…  why are they called Food for the Gods?  Well, it is said that these treats are so delicious that they are for (greek? roman?) gods.

These treats are available all year round, but they are most popular as Christmas giveaways.  They are usually sliced into small squares or rectangles and wrapped in foil paper or cellophane.  Trust me, a small portion goes a long way for these super-rich treats.

When I was younger (and single, and living with my mom), my mom would bake her fruitcakes, lasagna, and apple pies, while I would make food for the gods and brownies.  We even had a kitchen schedule fixed ahead of time so we would not quarrel over oven time!

I used her recipe to make these treats, but made a couple of adjustments – I used way less sugar that her recipe specified.  I remember these treats being ultra-rich and sweet and I wanted to reduce the sweetness if I could, without compromising its nature  – the dates are sweet enough on their own!!!  And, instead of walnuts, I used our local kasuy (cashews)!  This is a personal preference because in my book, cashews are way better than walnuts! 🙂

My first try was not so successful, but it was entirely my fault.  I halved the recipe but forgot to halve the flour!  The result was a utterly dry and stiff bar that was no good!  My second attempt was great, although I discovered that the treats had better texture after being left alone overnight!  They were good straight out of the oven, truth be told, but they were even better the day after!

 

Stuffed Dates

The local baking supply store always has dates for sale.  They are already pitted but they are often on the small side… good enough for baking and not bad for snacking.  But for a real treat, Medjool dates are the best.

Last weekend, hubby went to the nearby membership-only grocery store (without me!!!!) and found some organic (!) Medjool dates, at a very reasonable price!!!!  So of course he bought some!

He is perfectly happy to enjoy the dates as is but I had to interfere and try something else!

I’d seen stuffed dates before and usually the ones I’ve seen are stuffed with cheese and/or nuts.  I decided to stick with the cheese but use some of the fruit that I had macerating in the fridge (the ones for my fruitcake projects!).

The cast of characters –

It is very easy to make, except maybe for the pitting part… then again I had to slice the dates halfway anyway so…

1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup finely minced mixed dried fruit (macerated in brandy for at least 12 hours)
about 12 to 16 pieces of Medjool dates, pitted and sliced but not all the way through

Stir the cream cheese and macerated fruit together.  Place the filling inside a pastry bag with a large open star tip.  Pipe the filling in the dates.  Then enjoy!!!

 

Chilli Crab

Whenever we are lucky to have fresh, live crabs, my favorite dish to cook is crab sotanghon. But this time around, I asked hubby his preference and (I shouldn’t have asked since I know) he wants crabs very spicy, Singaporean style.

For this particular dish, I used the recipe in this book…

found on page 19

As usual, I personalize the recipe so here is what I did –

1.2 kilograms of crab, about 3 pieces
oil, for stir-frying
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb fresh ginger, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 to 2 siling labuyo, minced (small chilis)
1 to 2 cups stock (chicken, shrimp or fish)
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons cornstarch slurry
1 egg, beaten
handful of wansoy
spring onions

To prepare the crab, heat some water with ginger slices and parboil the crabs until they are no longer moving.  Scrub the shells clean then chop into serving pieces.  Set aside.

Saute the garlic, ginger, onion and chilis.  Add the crab pieces and the stock, sweet chili sauce, ketchup and rice wine.  Simmer about 10 minutes, or until the crabs are cooked.  Do not over-cook!  Season with salt and pepper, as per individual taste.  Thicken the dish with cornstarch slurry.  Drizzle in the beaten egg and sir gently until egg is set.

Serve hot.  Garnish with wansoy and spring onions.

It was really spicy but delicious!  Perfect with hot steaming rice!

Hubby’s picture posted on his FB page –

He knows that flattery (ehem, compliment daw) will get him everything!!!

*smile*

Mommy’s Fruitcake

My mom, for Christmas, is famous for 3 things – her lasagna, her apple pie, and her fruitcake!

I have succeeded with the lasagna, and am still struggling with the apple pie… but with her fruitcake?  Hmmmm, I know I botched up her recipe!

Why do I say this?

Well, first of all, she has 3 recipes for fruitcake in her recipe collection.  I have no idea which one she used!

Then, I thought I had all the ingredients – I checked a week before to see if I had everything… and I did, except for some dried and glazed fruit, and brandy.  I got hubby to drive me to various baking supply stores and the wine shop to get what I needed.  Then I started soaking my fruit.  When  baking day arrived, I gathered my ingredients together and discovered, to my dismay (!) that my molasses had gone bad!!!  Too late to go out and find molasses so I used dark corn syrup instead…

Then I committed the ultimate “sin”… I failed to check the oven temperature, and I baked the fruitcakes a tad longer than I was supposed to!  After 4 decades of baking, I forget the most basic of rules!  (totally my fault because I decided to substitute pans – made the fruitcakes into cupcakes and a small loaf, instead of 2 medium loaves).

So, it really isn’t any wonder that my (mom’s) fruitcake did not resemble the original!

Don’t worry, I will try again.  In fact, I have 1.5 kilograms of fruit soaking in brandy right now!!!  (And yes, I got the molasses too!)  Now all I have to do is find the time to bake!

(Hubby says that the fruitcake is delicious, although it is a bit dry inside…)

 

 

Saging at Yema

I recently made cupcakes with caramel and frosted with caramel buttercream. It is superb combination that is universally liked. But an idea popped into my head after baking a yema-topped cake (joining the bandwagon of yema cakes that have sprouted in many malls!) for a friend…

I wondered what would happen if I frosted my banana cupcakes with yema? Hmmmm…

Yema, after all, is a close relative of caramel… Yema, in the traditional sense is a candy made from egg yolks, milk and sugar (and the “secret” ingredient that is dayap!).

So, what is yema anyway?  According to pepper.ph –

Yema is Spanish for “egg yolk,” and is most likely a reference either to its golden-yellow appearance or to its composition (traditionally a batter of egg yolks, lime peel, and sugar). Intensely rich and similar in texture to the French crème brûlée, it is sometimes made more decadent by the addition of a thin, crisp coating of caramelized sugar. Wrapped in squares of colorful cellophane, yema can be purchased everywhere, from sari-sari stores, roadside stalls, to street vendors outside churches, as well as a few select groceries and bakeries.

Anyway, I experimented with using yema as base for the frosting.  As a safety net, I also frosted some with caramel buttercream and truffle frosting… and was quite amazed at the result! Everybody preferred the yema-banana combination over everything else!

Wow!

Having Fun in the Kitchen!

There are days when I am stuck at home with nothing to do…  For such a day, I usually catch up on sleep or reading… or I have fun in the kitchen!

This particular day I went crazy… made orange-speckled mini cakes – 1 frosted with Truffle Frosting for BFF’s birthday and the other one frosted with Yema Frosting, for a colleague.  (a bit more about yema in my next post.)

Then I made banana cupcakes and mini cupcakes – a dozen mini cupcakes frosted with Truffle Frosting for BFF still, half a dozen of mini cupcakes for another colleague AND a couple for the kid’s piano teacher, AND, of course, the kid!

I was tired after all that (plus the kitchen was HOOOOOTTTT!) but it was all worth it.